Siren Basics isn’t making undies for the male gaze

Sister design duo Brenda and Clara Liang chat about a new era of lingerie design for Gen Z.

Siren Basics is on a mission to make your unmentionables the talk of the town. Founded by sister duo Brenda and Clara Liang in 2019, the pair were bored of having to compromise on the quality, price, and design of their own underwear. Unsatisfied with the current market, the Liang sisters went about creating comfortable, affordable, and fun undies for Gen Z’s cool girls. 

The pair’s Chinese heritage often finds its way into their design, and the sisters credit the brand ethos to a rich childhood and desire to celebrate life. Femininity is at the forefront of what they do, empowering their wearers and calling on all the “baddies” to embrace this new era of fun and flirty underwear. From their frilly Mesh Thong to their new Ultra-Plush Bunny Robe that’s inspired by a tattoo flash sheet, the pair are about to venture into loungewear, with boxer shorts, bralettes, and pyjamas on the horizon. Here, the girls talk about their cultural inspirations, Gen Z’s new femininity, and the importance of self-expression…

How did Siren Basics come about? What gap in luxury underwear were you looking to fill? 

Clara: When Siren Basics began, I was still a freshman in high school and Brenda was in her first year at university. I remember her calling us and saying that she wanted to start an underwear brand, and since my dad is also an entrepreneur, we all jumped at the idea. What started as a creative hobby has developed into this passionate, fun and exciting journey that I couldn’t have ever imagined being a part of. A big reason we chose to be in the underwear business is that, at the time, underwear was either reasonably priced but low-quality and tacky, or overpriced. Brenda and I wanted to create luxurious, bespoke feeling underwear that we would want for ourselves, while making it relatively accessible. Everybody deserves to have a pair of cute and comfy underwear without having to splurge.

The Liang family heritage plays a role in Siren Basics’ identity. What was your relationship with design and underwear growing up? 

Brenda: When our parents first immigrated to the States, our dad was an underwear vendor on the streets of Chinatown, just trying to make a living. Now we’re out here making underwear for a living, but in a very different way. That’s such a special part of our history. For me at school, underwear was a form of self expression too. I felt stifled in my bland uniform and loved loud and fun pieces, so I’d wear neon underwear underneath it. It would make my days just a little brighter. I see in myself, Clara, our Mom, friends, and customers that it’s the little thing that brings joy. Sometimes I’ll see my friends at the club and they’ll pull out their Sirens and be like “OMG I HAVE MY SIRENS ON!”

How does the sister dynamic influence your process? 

Clara: Working with Brenda has been one of the best experiences. At first, it was hard to separate the brand from being siblings. As with all sibling dynamics, we would have our fair share of fights, and it was difficult to push our feelings aside to focus on work. Over time, Brenda and I became a lot better at navigating that. Part of the reason the sister dynamic works so well is that our family has always been very close, especially since it was just us four in the States, with the rest back in Asia. Brenda has always been my best friend and a huge role model in my life. We both have expertise in different areas that end up meshing together well, creating a great dynamic for Siren. Brenda has a really creative eye and a very unique perspective on design. Whereas I’ve always enjoyed the maths and organisational components.

Why do you think Gen Z were so keen to see an underwear brand catering to them?

Brenda: From how I see it, we never really cared about what other brands were doing. We would rather make our own mistakes and do our own thing, which feels pretty representative of Gen Z’s attitude. Everything that goes into Siren is intuitive — we do what we want and create what we’d like to wear ourselves. I think Gen Z has a knack for spotting brands that are emotionally manipulating someone to buy from them. We never put too much emphasis on what we think people want to see, and instead we focus on what we want to put our energy into. And since we’re also Gen Z, we’re ultimately our own customer. It doesn’t feel like we need to break our backs and study trends to appeal to them. 

Why is it important for Gen Z to be represented in the lingerie sphere through a new and exciting lens, like Siren Basics does?

Brenda: I feel like Gen Z has a different relationship with their bodies. We’re more open-minded and inclusive, whereas I think the older generations are a bit more subject to traditional beauty standards – they’ve had shapewear and push-up bras shoved down their throats. I have nothing against that, I just think lingerie can also just be cute, comfortable and fun. And not trying to manipulate the way we already look. 

What was a pivotal moment for your brand?

Brenda: It’s super important to us that we don’t become jaded. As time goes on, it’s easy to build a tolerance for milestones and exciting moments, but we celebrate every win. Even this interview is a pivotal moment for us because it’s always exciting to share more about our inspiration and story. One random pivotal moment was maybe a year ago, when a friend sent a photo of Sirens on the ground in some parking lot in New Jersey; no one around, just Sirens. But honestly, every shoot, every launch, everything feels so pivotal. We’re an extremely young brand and we’re still carving a space for ourselves where anything and everything we release is showing another little fragment of the Siren universe. 

Why is the idea of privacy so important to Siren Basics? 

Brenda: The idea of privacy is actually woven into Siren’s DNA. When we were brainstorming different brand names, we looked to the Chinese language and landed on 私人的 (Sīrén de), which directly translates to ‘private’, and phonetically spells out SIREN. We were super interested in the idea of privacy in terms of the female experience of underwear, because for a long time that’s been all about voyeurism and the male gaze. 

How does your Chinese heritage influence the way you approach design? 

Brenda: China is epic. It’s sad how xenophobic people can be these days, but Chinese culture and style feels so fresh and unprecedented. Western fashion normally looks to the East for inspiration. We did some people-watching when we visited family over the summer and we became inspired by literally everything: architecture, style, food, and design. East Asia in general is very technologically advanced. There’s a cyber feel to it, and Clara and I have always loved textures and experiences that feel tech-based. It’s funny though – when we had our first in-person meeting with our factory, they saw the thong and were like “ummm, what is this”. China is quite a conservative country, so there’s that contrasting element as well. 

Could you tell us more about how Homer’s poem ‘Odyssey’ reflects Siren Basics’ ethos?

Brenda: I remember having to read ‘Odyssey’ as a freshman in high school and hating it – what was even going on? But I always loved the sirens, these mythical mermaid-like creatures. It didn’t hold too much importance to us when landing on the name for our brand, but as we grew we noticed how much people would jump to that meaning: how sirens are beautiful, ethereal and feminine. We’ve gotten comments from customers saying how Siren Basics make them feel like sirens.

Why is inclusivity important to you? How do you implement this throughout Siren Basics?

Clara: Growing up, Brenda and I attended a predominately white Catholic school. Being one of the only Asian students in my year could definitely feel a bit isolating, and it was hard to resonate with the experiences of my peers. There was also a huge lack of minority representation in the media at this time. These feelings aren’t limited to myself; I think many of these experiences are shared among other underrepresented groups, which is why inclusivity is important in Siren Basics. It’s really important to us that individuals are able to look at a screen and see somebody like them, and that they’re not tokenised or stereotyped. 

What are some of your favourite designs and why?

Clara: I love to dedicate different designs to different moods, and would say my favourites at the moment are the Mesh Thong in Baby and the Duo Full in Creamsicle. The Mesh Thong in Baby is my favourite for adding a little colour to my outfit – when I’m feeling a little lazy, they’re my go-to accessory. The Creamsicle colourway is also one of my favourites: the vibrant orange and white transports me back to childhood summers when I’d sit on a playground swing set with a popsicle in hand. I love wearing undies that feel kind of nostalgic.

Brenda: Mine are definitely the Mesh Thong or the Full in Baby, Cocoa, or Deep Purple. And any of the Silkies. Our Silkies line was made with the feeling of freshly shaven legs swirling under clean sheets in mind; it’s the ultimate sensation. I have to say though, our newest drop of the Ultra-Plush Bunny Robe is a huge favourite. I have seven myself, and I just rotate between them because I can’t bare to part with it, even on laundry days. It’s insanely cosy and has gotten me through the seasonal depression this year. 

Could you tell us more about what went into making your new Ultra Plush Bunny-Robe?

Brenda: The idea came up in 2021 when we were thinking about where we wanted the brand to go long-term. We wanted to develop our own pattern with Siren motifs that include those of our Chinese heritage. We also wanted to create something that would also heal our inner child. We ended up enlisting a friend, Maya Ferrandiz, who is a talented tattoo artist, to sketch something up. We landed on a pencil pattern with bunnies (reminiscent of my childhood pet) which felt like a colouring book as much as it did a tattoo flash sheet. It felt like such a collaborative blend of Maya and Siren’s DNA. We took it a step further by shaping the pockets into bunnies. Then we did the campaign with our friend, photographer Sophia Wilson, who shot our very first campaign back in the day. And launched it in 2023, the year of the rabbit. Basically, the robe feels like an embodiment of how we operate at Siren; it’s all very serendipitous, and we have this magical way of bringing things full circle. 

Who would be the ideal Siren Basics wearer? 

Brenda: We make underwear for the baddies! Every customer of ours – whether we meet them at a pop-up or see their posts on Instagram – just reminds us of how cool they are individually and collectively. Even seeing the colours and undies each customer orders is a glimpse into their personality. I think our audience feels like a band of tasteful and authentic people who just get the vibe. She’d be that cool girl you see on the train. 

What does lingerie mean to you in 2024? Does this manifest itself in the basic format of underwear, or are you keen to explore other design concepts?

Brenda: I think as a society we’re always looking for the next trend. While that’s cool and exciting, we don’t feel like we are here to reinvent the wheel. We just want to elevate pieces that we know everyone needs, instead of investing too many resources into something new, and potentially wasting them. Rather than pushing people past what they’re comfortable with, we just want to make things that are familiar. It’s an incredibly intimate corner of garments and apparel. 

What do you think is the future of the underwear industry? 

Brenda: I think we’re going to see an increase in brands making underwear on top of their existing lines, or brands popping up to create undergarments that are a bit more stylised. Whale tails are a thing again, and with that underwear becomes more of an accessory. 

What’s next for Siren Basics? Are there any upcoming exciting projects that you can tell us about?

Brenda: So many things! I think the next few years will be huge for us. This year we’re releasing our first bralette, some new underwear collections, pyjamas, boxers, and boxer briefs. It’s incredibly exciting. Everything is still in the works and there’s a lot to manage, but I know it’s going to be next level.

WriterElla Chadwick
Banner Image CreditSiren Basics